Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Disease, not climate change, fueling frog declines in the Andes, study finds

13.12.2013
Amphibians at high elevations can tolerate temperature changes, but susceptible to deadly fungus

A deadly fungus, and not climate change as is widely believed, is the primary culprit behind the rapid decline of frog populations in the Andes mountains, according to a new study published today in the journal Conservation Biology.

Frogs living at higher elevations can tolerate increasing temperatures, researchers found, but their habitats fall within the optimal temperature range for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, a harmful pathogen they have only encountered relatively recently. The disease caused by Bd, chytridiomycosis, has led to the recent decline or extinction of 200 frog species worldwide.

The results have implications both for researchers trying to understand the rapid decline in frog populations across the globe and for conservationists looking to save the animals, said Vance Vredenburg, associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University and co-author of the study.

"Our research shows that we can't just automatically point our finger at climate change," he said. "We need to look carefully at what is causing these outbreaks."

The research was conducted at Wayqecha Biological Station on the eastern slopes of the Andes, located near Manu National Park in southern Peru. To measure frogs' tolerance to the changing climate, researchers placed them in water baths of varying temperatures, then flipped them on their backs. If a frog quickly flipped itself back over, that meant it was able to tolerate the warmer water. If not, researchers knew the frog had become overwhelmed and unable to deal with the change.

Researchers also measured the temperatures at which conditions are optimal for the growth and spread of Bd and found that the highland frogs' habitats lay right within that range.

"This really suggests that the fungus is driving a lot of the declines in this place," said Alessandro Catenazzi, assistant professor of zoology at Southern Illinois University and the lead author of the study. He was recently a post-doctoral fellow at SF State when much of the research took place.

Climate change, however, isn't let completely off the hook. Although Bd poses less of a threat to frogs in the lowlands, this study suggests that species at lower elevations are more susceptible to climate changes, putting them at risk if they are unable to adapt or move to higher altitudes.

"It's terrible news," Vredenburg said. "The frogs at the top of the mountain are in trouble because they are experiencing a novel pathogen. The guys at the lower elevations are not in trouble from the fungus, but they're really susceptible to changes in climate."

Vredenburg said Bd was likely introduced into this area of the Andes by human activity, and the results of the study indicate research and conservation efforts should focus on understanding and stopping the spread of the disease. Methods of doing so could include stopping the transport of live amphibians across borders, he said. But understanding the disease also has important implications for human health.

"This pathogen is like no other in the history of the world. Bd outbreaks make bubonic plague look like a slight cough," he said. "We need to understand the basic biology that's driving this terrible pathogen because it's the same biology that drives diseases that affect humans."

Vredenburg has studied the impact of Bd for more than a decade. His research has tracked the spread of the disease through the Sierra Nevada and beyond and shown that some species of frogs are relatively immune to its effects while others are highly susceptible. Future research will focus on those species to learn how they are able to escape Bd's harmful effects and see how that knowledge can be used to save other amphibians.

"Thermal Phsyiology, Disease and Amphibian Declines on the Eastern Slopes of the Andes" was published online in Conservation Biology on Dec. 13. Vredenburg co-authored the study with Catenazzi and Illinois Wesleyan University Assistant Professor of Biology Edgar Lehr. The research was funded by the Amazon Conservation Association, the Rufford Small Grants Foundation and a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Vance T. Vredenburg is an associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University. He is also a Research Associate at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley and California Academy of Sciences. Vredenburg is the co-founder of AmphibiaWeb.org, an online bioinformatics project promoting science and conservation of the world's amphibians.

SF State is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls nearly 30,000 students each year and offers nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema and biology to history, broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies. The University's more than 219,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond.

Jonathan Morales | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sfsu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>